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The Bright Side of Shadow IT

4 min read Mansoor Ahmed

While it may feel like it, shadow IT is not evidence that your staff is rebelling against you. In fact, if you follow the breadcrumb trail that those staffers are leaving for you, you could find some useful insights. Shadow IT has some very real benefits. It can often be a sign that team members have found resources that save them time and help them do their jobs more efficiently. 

With that in mind, here is a look at the light side of shadow IT (and how you can keep the benefits as you discover and control shadow IT).

Employees Find Their Own Solutions With Shadow IT

Employees become frustrated with IT when they feel they are not given access to the right tools and applications. These employees often turn to shadow IT to regain control of their own productivity, especially if they don’t feel like they’ve been consulted enough. 80% of the IT professionals surveyed by Entrust agree that companies should rely more on user suggestions when deploying technologies. Doing so helps employees feel more connected to the solutions, which has tangible results:

  • 45% feel more engaged.
  • 40% are more likely to stay with the company.
  • 40% are more likely to adhere to IT security requirements.

Employees do not just feel better about the solutions when they’re consulted first. How they work is usually your best resource before you invest in a new solution. Remember, the people who actually use the tools can provide the best insights.

Key Benefit #1- Shadow Apps Fit Business Needs

"77% of IT professionals believe their organizations would gain competitive advantages by being more collaborative when it comes to IT solutions." Click To Tweet

If you’ve ever helped a charitable organization with a time-sensitive event—maybe a blood drive, helping out with hurricane relief, getting food to homeless shelters—you’ll understand this simple truth: It’s the people with “boots on the ground” that know best what will be most helpful. 

The same Entrust survey found that 77% of IT professionals believe their organizations would gain competitive advantages by being more collaborative when it comes to IT solutions. One of the main reasons employees use their own tools is to satisfy a recognized need, so it is helpful to find better ways for them to get the tools they need. 

Employee-led SaaS deployment stays focused on the original business need and use case so that nothing gets lost in translation. Let’s say you hear, “we need something to manage our to-do lists”. You may assume that Asana or Monday can get the job done. So why do employees still use their own Trello boards and Evernote lists? You won’t know until you ask them.

Key Benefit #2 Shadow IT Can Remove Obstacles to Productivity

When employees sign up for apps by themselves, they get immediate access. This isn’t a bad thing, especially if they’re focused on their own productivity. Teams are under pressure to meet quick release cycles, tight client demands, and generally get more done in less time. High velocity does not inspire patience. That pressure generally doesn’t give them the patience for a bureaucratic procurement process. 

Most departments have their own budgets, which allows them to circumvent the IT purchasing workflow. If a team can get what they need in minutes by charging the expense card, why bother putting in a case with IT to get a suite of licenses?

Unless teams have a separate expense card for SaaS, reports of the latest purchase may not make it to IT. Marketing and sales departments are especially notorious for deploying shadow IT. This is because there are always new tools to address their project needs. Additionally, the compliance and security restrictions might not be as strict on these teams as they are for, say, finance. Constant Contact, Mailchimp, Unbounce, Salesforce, and more are often initially deployed as shadow IT. 

"Unless teams have a separate expense card for SaaS, reports of the latest purchase might not make it to IT." Click To Tweet

97% of those IT professionals surveyed by Entrust agree that employees are more productive when allowed to use their preferred technologies. IT leadership must find ways to bring them into proper channels with more agility, then negotiate contracts instead of having individuals agree to click-through agreements.

Is It Time to Embrace Shadow IT?

Of course, having a software free-for-all is a bad idea, too. But sometimes all it takes to find that happy medium is a little education. 37% of Entrust’s survey group said employees lack sufficient clarity about the consequences of using shadow IT—perhaps a quick review of the costs of shadow IT is enough to give employees some pause. 

In most cases, the utilization of shadow IT itself is not the problem. The problem is usually more one of communication. When IT does not know about an implemented solution, the team can’t integrate it securely or monitor it. Remember, though, that overly strict parents make sneaky children. Being too forceful about the rules around platforms often makes matters worse. Instead, leaders should spend time learning about which apps employees already use, why they use them, and how those apps are making them more productive.

It’s a bit of a dance, one in which IT has the opportunity to be a collaborative and supportive partner. Reach out to us to learn how Quolum empowers holistic app discovery and unobtrusive SaaS management.

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